Thursday, July 21, 2011

Examiner.com Interview

I was recently interviewed by Anna Marie Jehorek, a contributing writer for Examiner.com about my personal research into the sasquatch phenomenon in North Georgia, as well as my involvement with the BFRO and Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot" series.

I had a 48-minute long conversation with Anna about various aspects of the subject, and about my own experiences and background. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have quite a bit to say regarding those matters.

I think the article turned out very well. There are a few minor details that I would like to address here for my readership, but I will also include a link to the original article.

Is Bigfoot living in North Georgia? by Anna Marie Jehorek

In 1999 Matt Pruitt was in the woods with friends outside of Helen, Georgia when they encountered a large, ape-like creature. [Editor's Note (Matt Pruitt): There were actually two sasquatches on either side of our group of five hiking up that mountain in the dark.] The creature was covered in hair, howling and throwing rocks. [MP: None of us made visual contact with the sasquatches.] Having grown up in the area, Pruitt knew this was no bear.  He and his friends managed to record the intimidating figure on video but it was dark and difficult to see. [MP: The video captured the majority of the sounds we heard around us, as well as our reactions, but not the sasquatches themselves. At one point, large and reflective eyes are seen very close to us, accompanied by the pushing over of a large snag. One day, that entire video will be uploaded online for interested viewers to see.] However, it is a night that changed Matt’s life and ultimately led him to start the Georgia chapter of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization.  (BFRO) [MP: I didn't start the Georgia chapter of the BFRO; there were a few volunteers in the state before I became fully involved. I was the first investigator to organize public expeditions there, and have been organizing public expeditions there for four years. The previous Georgia expedition was lead by BFRO Director Matt Moneymaker.] 

After his experience in the woods Matt was left with questions.  Could Bigfoot live in North Georgia?  Raised in a family of medical professionals and scientists he set out to find a logical, scientific explanation for the unusual encounter, even hoping to quell or disprove what he had seen. Matt’s research led him to literature and folklore of Southern Appalachia and of the Cherokee natives detailing discoveries of large tracks and sightings of hair-covered monsters by local inhabitants throughout the centuries.  Cherokee names of locations translated into English such as Devils Courthouse, NC, meaning the devil holds court in the cave, also indicated evidence the beasts had been in the area for generations.  Today Pruitt dedicates his time to research and education about these elusive creatures.

The name ‘Bigfoot’ was coined in 1958 when tracks were found in Bluff Creek, California by a bulldozer operator named Jerry Crew. Later in 1967 a famous sighting was captured on film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin and widely reported in the media. But Sasquatch, a Salishan name from southwest British Columbia, was known long before that footage was captured and not just in the Pacific Northwest. Tsul ‘Kalu, the Cherokee name, has been part of local legend in the southeast for centuries. According to Pruitt’s research there are at least 37 recorded sightings prior to 1900 in Northeast Georgia and sightings continue today.

Many Sasquatch encounters that have been recorded occurred in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  The Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia is a rich forest area filled with white tail deer.  According to Pruitt, the abundance of prey and thick woods makes the Chattahoochee National Forest the ideal habitat for these giant omnivorous bipeds.

So what exactly is a Bigfoot? The most accepted theory is that Sasquatch is possibly a surviving Gigantopithecus, an off-shoot of Asian apes and the largest species ever to live along side humans.  They are also considered by researchers to be the rarest mammal on the continent.  Bigfoots are nomadic like orangutans and because they move and live in small groups they leave no impact on the landscape. They are so rare, he speculates there may only be 6 to 9 living in the Chattahoochee National Forest, sightings and encounters are extremely uncommon. [MP: No one can reliably estimate the population density of sasquatches in a given region, but I speculated that there could be as few as six to nine of them in the entire Chattahoochee National Forest. However, I do suspect that there are more of them than that.]

When asked how he answers skeptics Pruitt simply says that most skeptics come from urbanized areas and don’t really understand nature so he spends his time educating. [MP: I said that many skeptics have an "urbanized perspective" of the natural world. The majority of critics and cynics that I have discussed this with have often had the notion that the North American wilderness was something like Central Park; manicured and tamed. Most sensible biologists, naturalists, and ecologists that I have spoken with are reasonably open to the possibility.] Education is the main purpose of the BFRO which was founded in 1995.  

Pruitt recently played an integral part in helping produce an episode of ‘Finding Bigfoot’ for the Animal Planet channel.  The program details Sasquatch activity and sightings in Helen, Georgia including dashboard footage taken from a law enforcement vehicle showing a large hair-covered being crossing a road at night.

There is renewed interest in looking for Bigfoot as a result of the program on Animal Planet, and the Georgia chapter of the BFRO is thriving.  Pruitt will conduct a public expedition in North Georgia this September 22-25th.  More information can be found on the BFRO website. As Pruitt puts it, his work with the BFRO goes ‘beyond verifying the existence of Bigfoot; it is to educate.’

Additional resources: Matt Pruitt assisted Jeffrey Wells in writing The History of Bigfoot in Georgia, Pine Winds PR 2010 [MP: I spent many hours on the phone with Jeff while he was gathering data and materials for his book "Bigfoot in Georgia", but I didn't assist him in writing the book. The credit goes completely to Jeff. You can read more about his book in an earlier post of mine here.]

I enjoyed Anna's article, and I hope it makes more interested people aware of the history of observations of sasquatches in North Georgia, as well as the modern research being conducted there.

You can read the original article here: Is Bigfoot living in North Georgia?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Matt, great article and good summary of your first sighting. Would like to see the vid!

    ReplyDelete